Normal and exceptional – one and half weeks

I’ve been in Mexico City for one and a half weeks. My experiences so far have been on the whole…normal. Sorting out public transport, cooking, writing, sorting out the flat. So much for an exciting travel blog you’d think…but I couldn’t be happier, and I feel like the whole thing has been exceptional. After all, the main focus of this whole thing is not the place, or the travel, much as I might joke about midlife crises and second Gap Yahs, but the person, and the personal. From a narrative perspective, even the everyday can seem exciting when you are an ocean away from what you know, and with the right person.

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I’ve signed up to the local bike hire scheme and infuriated Myriam with my insistence on using it for even the shortest journey, citing value for money. EcoBicis knock our Boris Bikes into a cocked hat, being everywhere, incredibly easy to pick up and deposit, and lighter and more usefully designed. Despite Mexico City’s extraordinary traffic, they cater for the cyclist pretty well, with an abundance of separated cycle lanes and specific morning road closures, and as long as you accept that you have to look left, right, back, forward, up AND down before you move anywhere it’s pretty good going.

Traffic and transport is extraordinary, and not in a good way. It is a city of 21.2 million people, every single one of whom seems to have found a way to simultaneously be in their car, on a bus and in the metro. A journey from the centre to the main business district can take anywhere from half an hour to two hours, as buses run on their own schedules, stop where they like when they like, and pay little regard to things like overcrowding, or even the ability to close the doors. The metro, and the metrobus systems are largely excellent, and supremely cheap, but three carriage loads of people attempting to board a crowded train before a single passenger has disembarked causes problems. My natural politeness is of no use here, wins me no friends and largely means I wait for a fair few trains before sneaking on in the slipstream of the more bullish commuters. That said, I’m fundamentally in no rush here, so nothing about this has really been negative.

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D.F. being the city of markets, I’ve gone mad for fish, meat, and fresh fruit and veg, and cooked extensively – the output of our kitchen being a mildly confusing mixture of my staples (apple cake and seafood curry) and Myriam’s (puerco a la plancha, and chilaquiles for breakfast). I’ve gorged myself on tacos and tortas, slowly discovering the secrets of what makes such simple food good (and bad), and pulling together my own list of the best places to go. I’ve not yet been brave enough to eat tacos de la cabeza from my current favourite tacqueria, but I’ll deal with tongue, cheeks, eyes and brains soon enough. Having been sent a list of ‘50 Mexican street foods all true chilangos have eaten’, my challenge now is to tick off the remaining 37, including delicacies like patas de pollo, chapulines and cueritos, so a bit of offal in a taco is the least of my concerns.

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I’ve found new Football Friends, and begun to discover the oddities of playing football in a language not your own (more on that later). I’ve run, and again struggled with heat, altitude, and one Very Reluctant Dog. My initial keenness for joining a running club has waned somewhat with the discovery that they train at 5 20 am in a park about half an hour away by bike, so I’m desperately trying to summon up my ‘new experiences’ enthusiasm and hoping that, and a bucket of coffee, will at least help me try this.

I will perhaps do, and write about, more ‘exciting’ experiences, but for now just being here and doing the normal, everyday things in a new city, in new ways, is pretty damn exciting.

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